Fresh vs home cooking for your dog: which is better?

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Anna Wei, Cindy Feng
Fresh dog food vs home cooked

If you’re wondering whether cooking for your dog is better than fresh commercial options, you’re not alone. Both can be great alternatives to highly processed dog food, offering benefits like variety and control over ingredients. 

Dogs are like us: they need a fresh and varied diet with the optimal balance of quality protein, vegetables, and superfoods to feel healthy and happy. Every pup is unique, and their dietary needs depend on age, breed, size, weight, and health condition. One thing’s for sure: all dogs deserve real food.  

If you’re cooking for your dog at home, the guidance of qualified veterinary nutrition experts is crucial to getting your dog's nutrition right.

Considering Lyka for your pup? It's a convenient, nutrient-dense solution that arrives in custom portions — delivered directly to your door.

Top takeaways

Lyka vs home cooking summary

Nutrition and formulation

Lyka, and cooking for your dog, are minimally processed options that come with the benefit of transparency: you’ll know exactly what ingredients are in your dog’s food. When done correctly, both can provide an optimal balance of quality protein, vegetables, fruit, and superfoods.

Consulting with a qualified veterinary nutrition expert helps to ensure a safe balance of nutrients when cooking at home. If this is not possible, you may want to consider Lyka: our team of board-certified veterinary nutritionists formulate delicious, nutritious food to take the guesswork out of mealtimes.

Meeting ‘complete and balanced’ nutritional standards

All dogs need a complete and balanced diet, containing all the essential nutrients in the right proportions.

In Australia, the pet food industry is unregulated: many brands meet international standards to provide what dogs need to survive — looking to guidelines from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF).

Home cooked dog food can risk suboptimal nutrition without the benefit of a qualified dog nutrition expert — every home cooked diet in this study was deficient in at least one key nutrient recommended by FEDIAF. If it’s not feasible for you to work with an expert, try a commercial gently cooked option like Lyka.

For Lyka’s team of board-certified veterinary nutritionists, meeting AAFCO and FEDIAF guidelines is just the start. Our food is formulated with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have proven anti-inflammatory benefits for dogs. Lyka contains the optimal omega 6:3 ratio of 2-3.6:1 — this is much lower than AAFCO’s recommended ratio of 30:1, which contains an excess of omega-6 and could be pro-inflammatory.

The best food for different life stages and health concerns

Gently cooked food (if done right) is the best option for dogs of all ages from puppies to adults and seniors. This form of preparation offers the freedom to control ingredients based on health requirements: if your pup has itchy skin, for example, you may want to opt for a novel protein.

Puppies grow at a rapid rate in their first years of life, and need a specific balance of nutrients to support slow and steady growth. Nutritional imbalances (like incorrect calcium to phosphorous ratio) can lead to growth abnormalities, so it’s essential that prospective home cooks speak to a veterinary nutrition expert first or consider waiting until adulthood.

Lyka meals come with the assurance of being backed by expertise and experience in veterinary nutrition, with proteins to suit your dog’s individual needs like Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Kangaroo, and Fish.

They contain high to moderate amounts of quality protein, moderate fat, and low amounts of carbohydrates. Our meals contain fish oil or sardines for an omega-3 boost, with additions like turmeric and blueberries to support skin and gut health.

Ingredient quality

Compared to highly processed options, gently cooked options give pet parents more control over ingredients: including the ability to limit artificial additives and low-quality protein from unverified sources.

Home cooking requires the sourcing of ingredients, including ones that might be too niche to find on your average supermarket shelf. Lyka does this for you: providing nutrient-dense meals, with ingredients whose origin and quality you can trust.

Lyka only uses human-grade* meat: like our free-range chicken and wild-caught fish. We choose healthier proteins like grass-fed beef because compared to grain-fed beef, it’s higher in omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) and lower in omega-6 (pro-inflammatory).

Each Lyka meal is made from 85-95% Australian ingredients, including the animal proteins. We use fresh “ugly bunch” fruits and vegetables — Australian produce that’s deemed too ugly for supermarkets but still nutritious and delicious. Our food has high yet safe amounts of Vitamin E, D, C, and zinc to support your pup’s health.

* Human grade means it’s fit for human consumption — a process that’s strictly regulated in Australia.

Cooking and processing

Lyka and home-prepared diets are regarded as minimally processed, unlike kibble and canned foods. By gently cooking food, it retains its nutritional value, while avoiding the risk of pathogens associated with raw diets.

Lyka meals are gently cooked at low temperatures, just like home cooked dog food: every pouch comes with the assurance of having the optimal balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. This alleviates the risk of nutritional imbalances that can come with home-prepared diets.

“The people providing you with information on home-cooked diets should be qualified to advise on how to prepare food for your dog in a complete and balanced way. Ideally this should be a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, if not a wholefood consultant or professional animal nutritionist with a master’s degree.”

— Dr Matthew Muir, Lyka Co-founder and Integrative Veterinarian

Variety and taste

Lyka and home prepared diets offer a wider variety of ingredients than those found in highly processed foods. In both cases, you can rotate animal proteins and ingredients thought to promote a diverse and balanced microbiome.

Food variety is essential to a healthy gut, which has flow-on effects for your dog’s immunity, digestive health, and brain function. A smorgasbord of fresh food can also increase their enjoyment at mealtimes, strengthening your special bond.

Feeding your dog the same meal every day may reduce the diversity of good gut bacteria which can impact their health. Variety, without sacrificing quality, can be difficult to sustain when cooking at home.

Vet tip on variety and quality being difficult to maintain at home

Lyka offers 6 meals with a limited protein base, to keep your dog’s tastebuds engaged: there’s one for nearly every day of the week!

Transparency

Knowing exactly what ingredients are in each meal gives you the power to shape your dog’s meal plans to suit their specific health needs or preferences.

Lyka believes in being transparent. We’ve shared our list of ingredients and their health benefits, so you know why we’ve selected them for our meals. Understanding dog food labels is important when navigating the confusing world of dog food.

Lyka: going above and beyond for all dogs

A simple shift in what you put in your dog’s bowl can have a life-changing impact on their health.

Lyka dog food is formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists to go above and beyond nutritional standards for all dogs at all life stages — from puppy to senior and everything in between.

Each gently cooked meal is made from high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, making them a nourishing option for parents that don’t have the time or expertise to cook food at home.

Choosing the right food can be overwhelming — we’re here to keep things simple, and make sure you’ve got all the information you need to make the best decision for your pup.

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Lyka home cook customer testimonial

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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